Remember Aaron Swartz


He was so fiercely brilliant

I liked Aaron when I first met him, but it much longer before I was no longer intimidated by the intellectual shadow he cast from ten inches below me.

He was so fiercely brilliant that you’d only realize how young he was when you saw it in writing. And then you’d forget four sentences into the next conversation. When we were colleagues, we went to dinner. I picked the place, and it turned out there was nothing on the menu he could eat. But we stayed for three hours to talk about how to rebuild organizations, how to disrupt mass atrocities without weaponry, and what the world could look like in three decades, if people like us could make it so. I left with more ideas than I had had in a month. We were supposed to meet again, over dinner, in the weeks ahead. I couldn’t wait. I liked, Aaron, certainly. But I also liked the person Aaron helped me be. When I’ve talked to friends and my change family today, I keep coming back to a part of a poem called In Flanders Fields by a Canadian named John McCrae. It was about World War I, which no doubt would have offended Aaron, but there are a few verses that speak to us:

We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie, In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high.

Aaron, the people that love you will be holding the torch high. But damn do we wish you were still here to walk with us.